Skip to Main Content

What is the Difference Between a Popular and Scholarly Source?

If you are not familiar with scholarly publications, it can be difficult to tell the difference between scholarly and popular periodicals. There are no definitive rules for distinguishing between the two, but here are some guidelines:

Scholarly (e.g., academic journals):

  • Are written by professionals within an academic field or discipline.
  • Contain research projects, methodology, and theory.
  • Have few, if any, advertisements.
  • Use college-level or specialized vocabulary of the discipline.
  • Include articles with extensive bibliographies, footnotes, or other documentation.
  • Graphics are often tables, charts, and diagrams.
  • Are peer-reviewed or refereed.
    • A simple explanation of peer review: other scholars in the field have evaluated a work. Check a journal's website to see what it says about the peer review or referee process. See this page, for example.
    • NOTE: Even though many databases allow you to limit by peer review, it's not a guarantee that every article so limited will actually be a peer reviewed research article. Peer reviewed journals also contain non peer reviewed content such as book reviews and editorials.

Popular (e.g., magazines, newspapers):

  • Are written by journalists.
  • Contain general news articles written to inform, update, or introduce a new issue.
  • Have many full-color, full-page advertisements.
  • Use a general, non-technical vocabulary.
  • Include articles with little or no documentation.
  • Graphics are often full-color pictures and illustrations.

See this page for more information.

Why Use A Database?

Search a database to find journal, magazine, or newspaper articles. Some databases also provide access to other materials such as dissertations, book chapters, books, datasets, sound recordings, videos, etc.
  • Some databases have the full text of articles. If not, follow these instructions to figure out if the library has the journal, or call the Research Help Desk at 405-325-4142 for assistance.
  • What if the library does not have a journal article that you need? We can still get it for you via our interlibrary loan service. It's free! And articles often come electronically within a few days. For more information see the interlibrary loan page.


Museum Studies is very interdisciplinary so multidisciplinary databases and databases for many different subject areas are listed below.
Multidisciplinary Databases
Databases for Anthropology
Database for Architecture
Databases for Art
Database for Business
Database for Conservation
Databases for History
Databases for Library and Information Studies